NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

What Do Unions Do ... to Voting?

Richard B. Freeman

NBER Working Paper No. 9992
Issued in September 2003
NBER Program(s):   AP

This paper uses data from four different data sets to examine the union impact on the turnout of members and their support for union-preferred candidates. It rejects the claim that the union share of the electorate rose massively in the 1990s. It finds that union members are about 12 percentage points more likely to vote than non-union members and nonunion persons in union households are modestly more likely to vote than persons in nonunion households, but shows that most of the higher rate of turnout of unionists is due to socioeconomic factors that differentiate union members from others. With respect to voting preferences, union members are more likely to vote for a Democrat for the House or Presidency than demographically comparable nonunion voters, largely because union members have attitudes and voting inclinations favorable to the Democrats and to liberalism prior to a given campaign. Finally, the study identifies a sizable group of nonunion persons with pro-union attitudes that unions could potentially influence to maintain the union impact on elections even with declines in union density.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9992

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